Never before had I seen my name mentioned so often in an email thread. The first time I noticed it was two years ago when I began exchanging emails with Jennifer Jordan, former associate professor in the Faculty of Economics and Business and one of my Honours College supervisors. I felt enveloped in an inexplicable warmth, even in the impersonal and static space of the internet.
What surprised me all the more was the sense of attentiveness that I sensed in even her shortest emailed messages. It was evidence of an emotional intelligence which was also apparent in person and had sparked my interest to work with her in the first place.
Over the years, this presumably simple experience left me contemplating the power of being referred to by my seemingly strategically placed name in a non-verbal conversation on the internet. Overtime, what I now refer to as The Jordan Method has become my go-to approach to formulating my own personal emailed messages.
I have found that this approach validates my own belief that the essential goals of adaptive communication (especially between differing cultures) are to engender dialogue, to convey understanding, to be understood, and to leave the other person with a secure sense of being heard.
Both verbal and non-verbal intercultural communication require deliberate effort and skill to navigate the white noise created by cultural differences. Regrettably, this is not universally understood.
As such, I have had to become accustomed to the response from individuals who, after meeting me for the first time, exclaim that I do not ‘sound Jamaican’. But modifying my ‘Jamaican sound’ when communicating verbally with non-Jamaicans is both deliberate and functional.
I have learned from experience that being left to decipher an unfamiliar dialect or language while conversing with others can cause the listener to feel isolated and disengaged. Consequently, I remain conscious of the fundamental approach that a within-culture manner of communicating has to be modified when the same message is conveyed interculturally. In doing so, you can be fairly certain that message will be interpreted as closely to its intended meaning as possible.
What separates a dialogue from a monologue is intention. Adaptive communication across cultures reflects one’s personal values and requires anticipating and adjusting for the communication needs of others. Perhaps the challenges that naturally appear in intercultural communication can be mitigated by deliberate effort to identify and figuratively speak the other person’s language. Sometimes this involves communicating feelings rather than words.